Green vehicle

Green vehicle
The Toyota Prius is the world's top selling hybrid car, with cumulative global sales of 2.0 million units by September 2010,[1] and has become the icon of green cars.

A green vehicle or environmentally friendly vehicle is a road motor vehicle that produces less harmful impacts to the environment than comparable conventional internal combustion engine vehicles running on gasoline or diesel, or one that uses alternative fuels.[2][3] Presently, in some countries the term is used for any vehicle surpassing the Euro6-norm such as LEVs and ULEVs, and also more informally it is used for California's zero emissions vehicles and other low-carbon emission vehicles.[4]

Green vehicles are powered by alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies and include hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, compressed-air vehicles, hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles, neat ethanol vehicles, flexible-fuel vehicles, natural gas vehicles, clean diesel vehicles, and some sources also include vehicles using blends of biodiesel and ethanol fuel or gasohol.[3][5] Several author also include conventional motor vehicles with high fuel economy, as they consider that increasing fuel economy is the most cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector in the short run.[6] As part of their contribution to sustainable transport, environmentally friendly vehicles reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to energy independence by reducing oil imports.[3][6]



Part of the total energy cost can be cut by choosing smaller, lighter vehicles that use less energy to produce and to operate. Alternatively larger heavier vehicles with more efficient power systems may use less energy overall.

Energy efficiency

Cars with similar production energy costs can obtain, during the life of the car (operational phase), large reductions in energy costs through several measures:

  • The most significant is by using alternative propulsion:
    • An efficient engine that reduces the vehicle's consumption of petroleum (i.e. petroleum electric hybrid vehicle), or, preferably, that uses renewable energy sources throughout its working life.
    • Using biofuels instead of petroleum fuels.
  • Proper maintenance of a vehicle such as engine tune-ups, oil changes, and maintaining proper tire pressure can also help.
  • Removing unnecessary items from a vehicle reduces weight and improves fuel economy as well.
Comparison of several types of green car basic characteristics
(Values are overall for vehicles in current production and may differ between types)
Type of vehicle/
Fuel economy
(mpg equivalent)
Range Production cost
for given range
Reduction in CO2
compared to conventional
Payback period
Conventional ICE 10-78 Long
(400-600 mi)
Low 0% -
Biodiesel 18-71 Long
(360-540 mi)
Low 100% -
All-electric Excluding battery cost: 99
Including battery cost: 10-50
(73-150 mi)
High varies -
Hydrogen fuel cell 80[7] High
Hybrid electric 30-60 380 mi[7] Medium 5 years[8][9]


Comparison of energy efficiency between battery and hydrogen fuel-cell cars.
Sales of both the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid (top) and the Nissan Leaf all-electric car (bottom) began in December 2010.

Green vehicles include vehicles types that function fully or partly on alternative energy sources other than fossil fuel or less carbon intensive than gasoline or diesel.

Another option is the use of alternative fuel composition in conventional fossil fuel-based vehicles, making them function partially on renewable energy sources. Other approaches include personal rapid transit, a public transportation concept that offers automated, on-demand, non-stop transportation on a network of specially built guideways.

Electric and fuel cell-powered

Examples of vehicles with reduced petroleum consumption include electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell-powered hydrogen cars.

Electric cars are typically more efficient than fuel cell-powered vehicles on a wheel-to-wheel basis.[10] For this reason, battery powered vehicles and plug-in hybrids are gaining popularity. They have better fuel economy than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles but are hampered by range or maximum distance attainable before discharging the battery. The electric car batteries are their main cost. They provide a 55% to 99.9% improvement in CO2 emissions compared to an ICE (gasoline, diesel) vehicle, depending on the source of electricity.[11]

Hybrid electric vehicles

Hybrid cars may be partly fossil fueled and partly electric or hydrogen-powered. They are more expensive to purchase but cost redemption is achieved in a period of about 5 years due to better fuel economy.[8][9]

Compressed air cars, stirling vehicles, and others

Compressed air cars, stirling-powered vehicles, Liquid nitrogen vehicles are even less polluting than electrical vehicles, as the vehicle and its components can be made more environmentally friendly.

Solar car races are held on a regular basis in order to promote green vehicles and other "green technology". These sleek driver-only vehicles can travel long distances at highway speeds using only the electricity generated instantaneously from the sun.

Improving conventional cars

The Fiat Siena Tetrafuel 1.4 is a multifuel car designed to run as a flex-fuel on gasoline, or E20-E25 blend, or neat ethanol (E100); or to run as a bi-fuel with natural gas (CNG).

A conventional vehicle can become a greener vehicle by mixing in renewable fuels or using less carbon intensive fossil fuel. Typical gasoline-powered cars can tolerate up to 10% ethanol. Brazil manufactured cars that run on neat ethanol, though there were discontinued. Another available option is a flexible-fuel vehicle which allows any blend of gasoline and ethanol, up to 85% in North America and Europe, and up to 100% in Brazil.[12] Another existing option is to convert a conventional gasoline-powered to allow the alternative use of CNG. Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, India, Italy, and China have the largest fleets of natural gas vehicles in the world.[13]

Diesel-powered vehicles can often transition completely to biodiesel, though the fuel is a very strong solvent, which can occasionally damage rubber seals in vehicles built before 1994. More commonly, however, biodiesel causes problems simply because it removes all of the built-up residue in an engine, clogging filters, unless care is taken when switching from dirty fossil-fuel derived diesel to bio-diesel. It is very effective at 'de-coking' the diesel engines combustion chambers and keeping them clean. Biodiesel is the lowest emission fuel available for diesel engines. Diesel engines are the most efficient car internal combustion engines. Biodiesel is the only fuel allowed in some North American national parks because spillages will completely bio-degrade within 21 days. Biodiesel and vegetable oil fuelled, diesel engined vehicles have been declared amongst the greenest in the US Tour de Sol competition.

This presents a problem, however, as biofuels can use food resources in order to provide mechanical energy for vehicles. Many experts point to this as a reason for growing food prices, particularly US Bio-ethanol fuel production which has affected maize prices. In order to have a low environmental impact, biofuels should be made only from waste products, or from new sources - like algae.


  • Public transportation vehicles are not usually included in the green vehicle category, but Personal rapid transit (PRT) vehicles probably should be. All vehicles that are powered from the track have the advantage of potentially being able to use any source of electric energy, including sustainable ones, rather than requiring liquid fuels. They can also switch regenerative braking energy between vehicles and the electric grid rather than requiring energy storage on the vehicles. Also, they can potentially use the entire track area for solar collectors, not just the vehicle surface. The potential PRT energy efficiency is much higher than that which traditional automobiles can attain.
  • Solar vehicles are electric vehicles powered by solar energy obtained from solar panels on the surface (generally, the roof) of the vehicle. Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert the Sun's energy directly into electrical energy. Solar vehicles are not practical day-to-day transportation devices at present, but are primarily demonstration vehicles and engineering exercises, often sponsored by government agencies.
  • Wind-powered electric vehicles primarily use wind-turbines installed at a strategic point of the vehicle, which are then converted into electric energy which causes the vehicle to propel.

Animal powered vehicles

Horse and carriage are just one type of animal propelled vehicle. Once a common form of transportation, they became far less common as cities grew and automobiles took their place. In dense cities, the waste produced by large numbers of transportation animals was a significant health problem. Oftentimes the food is produced for them using diesel powered tractors, and thus there is some environmental impact as a result of their use.

Human powered vehicles

Human powered transport includes walking, bicycles, velomobiles, row boats, and other environmentally friendly ways of getting around. In addition to the health benefits of the exercise provided, they are far more environmentally friendly than most other options. The only downside is the speed limitations, and how far one can travel before getting exhausted.


A study by CNW Marketing Research suggests that the extra energy cost of manufacture, shipping, disposal, and the short lives of some of these types of vehicle (particularly gas-electric hybrid vehicles) outweighs any energy savings made by their using less petroleum during their useful lifespan.[14] Critics of the report note that the study prorated all of Toyota's hybrid research-and-development costs across the relatively small number of Priuses on the road, rather than using the incremental cost of building a vehicle; used 109,000 miles (175,000 km) for the length of life of a Prius (Toyota offers a 150,000-mile (240,000 km) warranty on the Prius' hybrid components, including the battery), and calculated that a majority of a car's cradle-to-grave energy gets expended during the vehicle's production, not while it is driven.[15]

Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman official Bente Øverli stated that "Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others." Based on this opinion, Norwegian law severely restricts the use of "greenwashing" to market automobiles, strongly prohibiting advertising a vehicle as being environmentally friendly, with large fines issued to violators.[16][17][18][19]

Benefits of green vehicle use


Vehicle emissions contribute to the increasing concentration of gases linked to climate change.[20] In order of significance, the principal greenhouse gases associated with road transport are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).[21] Road transport is the third largest source of greenhouse gases emitted in the UK, and accounts for over 20% of total emissions,[22] and 33% in the United States.[23] Of the total greenhouse gas emissions from transport, over 85% are due to CO2 emissions from road vehicles. The transport sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases.[24]


Vehicle pollutants have been linked to human ill health including the incidence of respiratory and cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer. A 1998 report estimated that up to 24,000 people die prematurely each year in the UK as a direct result of air pollution.[25] According to the World Health Organisation, up to 13,000 deaths per year among children (aged 0–4 years) across Europe are directly attributable to outdoor pollution. The organisation estimates that if pollution levels were returned to within EU limits, more than 5,000 of these lives could be saved each year.


Hybrid taxi fleet operators in New York have also reported that reduced fuel consumption saves them thousands of dollars per year.[26]

National and international promotion

European Union

The European Union is promoting the marketing of greener cars via a combination of binding and non-binding measures.[27] As of April 2010, 15 of the 27 European Union member states provide tax incentives for electrically chargeable vehicles and some alternative fuel vehicles, which includes all Western European countries except Italy and Luxembourg, plus the Czech Republic and Romania. The incentives consist of tax reductions and exemptions, as well as of bonus payments for buyers of electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrid electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles.[28][29]

United States

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promoting the marketing of greener cars via the SmartWay program. The SmartWay and SmartWay Elite designation mean that a vehicle is a better environmental performer relative to other vehicles. This US EPA designation is arrived at by taking into account a vehicle's Air Pollution Score and Greenhouse Gas Score. Higher Air Pollution Scores indicate vehicles that emit lower amounts of pollutants that cause smog relative to other vehicles. Higher Greenhouse Gas Scores indicate vehicles that emit lower amounts of carbon dioxide and have improved fuel economy relative to other vehicles.

To earn the SmartWay designation, a vehicle must earn at least a 6 on the Air Pollution Score and at least a 6 on the Greenhouse Gas Score, but have a combined score of at least 13. SmartWay Elite is given to those vehicles that score 9 or better on both the Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Scores.

A Green Vehicle Marketing Alliance, in conjunction with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ONRL), periodically meets, and coordinates marketing efforts.[30]

Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE (PIAXP) is a set of competitions, programs and events, from the X PRIZE Foundation to "inspire a new generation of super-efficient vehicles that help break America's addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change."[31] Progressive Insurance is the title sponsor of the prize, the centerpiece of which is the Competition Division, within which a $10 million dollar purse will be divided between the winners of three competitions.

The essence of each competition is to design, build and race super-efficient vehicles that will achieve 100 MPGe (2.35 liter/100 kilometer) and can be produced for the mass market.[32] Within the Competition Division, there are two vehicle classes: Mainstream and Alternative. The mainstream class has a prize of $5 million. The alternate class has 2 separate prizes of $2.5 million, one for side-by-side seating and one for tandem seating.[33]

Some of the competitors, such as Aptera and Tesla, are already taking deposits for 'green' vehicles from customers.

Green car rankings

Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car.
Ford Focus Electric.
VW Golf TDI clean diesel.
BMW MINI Cooper.
Lexus CT 200h.

Several automobile magazines, motor vehicle specialized publications and environmental groups publish annual rankings or listings of the best green cars of a given year. The following table presents a selection of the annual top pickings.

Selected annual rankings of green cars
Vehicle Year
Type of
Most efficient EPA-certified vehicles[34]
Toyota Prius — Current year, gasoline fuel 2011 Hybrid electric 50 51 48
Honda Insight — All years, gasoline fuel 2000 Hybrid electric 53 49 61
Mitsubishi i-MiEV — All years, all fuels 2012 Electric car 112 mpg-e 126 mpg-e 99 mpg-e
Green Car JournalGreen Car of the Year
Honda Civic GX — 2012 Award[35] 2012 Natural gas 28 24 36
Chevrolet Volt — 2011 Award[36][37][38] 2011 Plug-in hybrid Gas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
93 mpg-e 37 mpg 35 mi
Audi A3 TDI — 2010 Award[39] 2010 Clean diesel 33 30 41
VW Jetta TDI — 2009 Award[40] 2009 Clean diesel 41 40 43
Green Car Journal — Green Car Vision Award
Ford Focus Electric — 2011 Award[41] 2012 Electric car Gasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
100 mi
Nissan Leaf — 2010 Award[42][43] 2011 Electric car Gasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
99 mpg-e 73 mi
Chevrolet Volt — 2009 Award[37][38][44] 2011 Plug-in hybrid Gas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
93 mpg-e 37 mpg 35 mi
World Car of the Year — World Green Car
Chevrolet Volt — 2011 Award[45] 2011 Plug-in hybrid Gas equivalent
All-electric mode
only mode
All-electric range
93 mpg-e 37 mpg 35 mi
Volkswagen BlueMotion — 2010 Award[46]
(Golf, Passat, Polo)
2010 Clean diesel n.a. n.a. n.a.
Honda FCX Clarity — 2009 Award[47]
(miles per kilogram of hydrogen)
2009 Hydrogen fuel cell 77 67 72
Consumer Reports Top Picks: Green Car Category
Toyota Prius — Best model 2010[48] 2010 Hybrid electric 50 51 48
Toyota Prius — Best model 2009[49] 2009 Hybrid electric 46 48 45
Consumer Reports American Top Picks: Green Car Category
Ford Fusion Hybrid — Top Pick 2010[50] 2010 Hybrid electric 39 41 36
Ford Escape Hybrid — Top Pick 2009[51] 2009 Hybrid electric 32 34 31
What Car? Green Awards
Toyota Auris Hybrid — Overall Winner 2010[52] 2010 Hybrid electric UK combined 74 mpg-imp (3.8 L/100 km; 62 mpg-US)[52]
Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe S — Overall Winner 2009[53] 2009 Clean diesel UK combined 60 mpg-imp (4.7 L/100 km; 50 mpg-US)[54]
Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Style — Overall Winner 2008[55] 2008 Clean diesel UK combined 52 mpg-imp (5.4 L/100 km; 43 mpg-US)[56]
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Greenest Vehicles of the Year
Greenest Vehicles of 2010 (Top 5)[57]
Honda Civic GX 2010 Natural gas 28 24 36
Toyota Prius 2010 Hybrid electric 50 51 48
Honda Civic Hybrid 2010 Hybrid electric 42 40 45
Smart fortwo (Convertible/coupe) 2010 Gasoline 36 33 41
Honda Insight 2010 Hybrid electric 41 40 43
Greenest Vehicles of 2011[58][59]
Honda Civic GX 2011 Natural gas 28 24 36
Nissan Leaf 2011 Electric car 99 mpg-e 3.15 mile/Kwh 2.72 mile/Kwh
Smart fortwo (Cabriolet/Coupe) 2011 Gasoline 36 33 41
Toyota Prius 2011 Hybrid electric 50 51 48
Honda Civic Hybrid 2011 Hybrid electric 41 40 43
Honda Insight 2011 Hybrid electric 41 40 43
Ford Fiesta SFE manual 2011 Gasoline 33 29 40
Chevrolet Cruze ECO manual 1.4L 2011 Gasoline n.a. 28 42
Hyundai Elantra manual 1.8L 2011 Gasoline 33 29 40
MINI Cooper (manual) 2011 Gasoline 32 29 37
Toyota Yaris (manual) 2011 Gasoline 32 29 36
Mazda 2 (manual) 2011 Gasoline n.a. 29 35
Chevrolet Volt 2011 Plug-in hybrid 37 35 40
n.a. 2.81 mile/Kwh 2.76 mile/Kwh
Mother Earth News Best Green Cars of 2010[60]
Ford Fusion Hybrid 2010 Hybrid electric 39 41 36
Honda Civic Hybrid 2010 Hybrid electric 42 40 45
Honda Insight 2010 Hybrid electric 41 40 43
Toyota Prius 2010 Hybrid electric 50 51 48
VW Golf TDI 2010 Clean diesel 34 30 42
VW Jetta TDI 2010 Clean diesel 41 40 43
Kelley Blue Book Top 10 Green Cars
Green Cars of 2010 (Top 5)[61][62]
Toyota Prius 2010 Hybrid electric 50 51 48
Honda Insight 2010 Hybrid electric 41 40 43
Ford Fusion Hybrid 2010 Hybrid electric 39 41 36
VW Golf TDI 2010 Clean diesel 34 30 42
MINI Cooper 2010 Gasoline 32 28 37
Top 10 Green Cars of 2011[63][64]
Nissan Leaf 2011 Electric car Gasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
99 mpg-e 73 mi
Chevrolet Volt 2011 Plug-in hybrid Gasoline equivalent
fuel economy
All-electric range
93 mpg-e 35 mi
Toyota Prius 2011 Hybrid electric 50 51 48
Lexus CT 200h 2011 Hybrid electric 42 43 40
Honda Insight 2011 Hybrid electric 41 40 43
Ford Fusion Hybrid 2011 Hybrid electric 39 41 36
VW Golf TDI 2011 Clean diesel 34 30 42
Hyundai Elantra 2011 Gasoline 33 29 40
Fiat 500 2012 Gasoline 33 30 38
Ford Focus 2012 Gasoline 31 28 38

Green vehicle motor shows

Dedicated electric and green vehicle motor shows:

  • Alternative Vehicle and Fuel Show (AVFS), Fair of Valladolid, Spain, in November.[65]
  • Green Fleet Expo, Royal Botanical Gardens (Ontario), in May.[66]
  • Green-Car-Guide Live!, Arena and Convention Centre in Liverpool, in June[67]
  • European Electric Motor Show, Helsinki Exhibition & Convention Centre, in November[68][69][70]

See also


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  2. ^ R.I.C. Publications (2005). Rainforests. p. 67. ISBN 9781741263305. 
  3. ^ a b c "Green Vehicle Guide". Green Student U. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  4. ^ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Working Group on Low-Emission Vehicles (2004). Can cars come clean?. OECD Publishing. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9789264104952.,M1. 
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  6. ^ a b Sperling, Daniel and Deborah Gordon (2009). Two billion cars: driving toward sustainability. Oxford University Press, New York. pp. 235–260. ISBN 978-0-19-537664-7.  See Chapter 9: Driving Towards Sustainability
  7. ^ a b S&TR
  8. ^ a b Consumer Reports (7 March 2006). "Consumer Reports Revises Financial Analysis In Report on Ownership Costs for Hybrid Cars". Consumers Union. Archived from the original on 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
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  11. ^ Alternate Fuel Technology - Battery Electric VehiclesPDF (245 KB)
  12. ^ "Dual Fuel Cars Revive Brazil's Alcohol Industry". 
  13. ^ "Natural Gas Vehicle Statistics". International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  14. ^ CNW Marketing Research, Inc (2006). Dust to Dust - The Energy Cost of New Vehicles From Concept to Disposal. 
  15. ^ Brendan I. Koerner, "Tank vs. Hybrid: IS IT POSSIBLE THAT A HUMMER'S BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT THAN A PRIUS IS?", Slate magazine, March 18, 2008
  16. ^
  17. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (2010-05-05). "Prove 'clean, green' ads, Norway tells automakers". Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  18. ^ "Greenwash Watch: Norways Says Cars Neither Green Nor Clean". Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  19. ^ Doyle, Alister. "Norways Says Cars Neither Green Nor Clean". Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  20. ^ World Energy Council (2007). "Transport Technologies and Policy Scenarios". World Energy Council. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  21. ^ Marianne Weingroff. "Activity 20 Teacher Guide: Human Activity and Climate Change". Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  22. ^ "WhatGreenCar? Ratings Methodology". 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  23. ^ Jonathan L. Ramseur (January 18, 2007) (PDF). Climate Change: Action by States To Address Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Congressional Research Service. p. 16. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
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  26. ^ Joan Gralla (July 17, 2008). "NYC speeds transformation of yellow cabs to green". Reuters. 
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  31. ^ "Competition Guidlines, Version 1.2, 13 January 2009". X PRIZE Foundation. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  32. ^ Alan Boyle. "Auto X Prize Revs Up". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  33. ^ "Competition Guidelines" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  34. ^ US DoE and US EPA. "Most Efficient EPA Certified Vehicles". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  35. ^ Susan Carpenter (2011-11-17). "Honda Civic Natural Gas wins 2012 Green Car of the Year Award". Los Angeles Times.,0,3207674.story. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  36. ^ "Chevrolet Volt Electric Car is 2011 Green Car of the Year". Green Car Journal. 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
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  50. ^ "Consumer Reports American Top Picks 2010". Consumer Reports. 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  51. ^ "Consumer Reports American Top Picks 2009". Consumer Reports. 2009-03-04. Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
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  68. ^ [1][dead link]
  69. ^ Added by Antti View Events. "Electric Motor Show in Helsinki on 6–8 November 2009 - Electric A!D". Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
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